NYU says Craigslist sucks at spotting fake rental listings

Researchers claim that more than half of all scam adverts stay online for up to 20 hours.


Researchers at New York University claim that Craigslist has a serious problem identifying fraudulent listings. After digging through two million of 'em, a team from the Tandon School of Engineering thinks that the site misses anything up to 55 percent of scam entries. They normally work by offering a juicy property for rent, but forcing users to undergo a credit check or pay cash straight to see the full listing. Naturally, both are designed to separate would-be renters from their money, but apparently they're pretty easy to spot. Despite this, Craigslist stands accused of leaving fraudulent entries linger online for anything up to 20 hours.

The team's analysis found that there are actually a variety of scams that are all part of the Craiglist property pantheon. Credit Report scams work as mentioned, but there's also Clone Scams, where desirable pads are offered at a heavy discount if money is wired across up-front. In addition, Realtor Service scams ask users to sign up to a paid-for mailing list with a monthly subscription in exchange for advance information about pre-foreclosure properties.

As for conclusions, the team believes that the data it's gathered could be put into developing a new filtering system that's much more effective than what's in place. In addition, the findings suggest that credit card providers could -- and should -- be doing more to insulate its users from handing over their money. Also, you know, if someone's asking for money on a free listings site, don't give it to 'em.